Finishing a Book Journal – 17 Years in the Making

Even though I entered my Master’s of Library Science program at the age of 27, I’ve been an organized, bookish reader since my elementary school days. Somewhere there exists in my parents’ house a textured 3 ring binder, with wide-ruled notebook paper, where I’ve written details of what I read in my adolescent and teenage years: Berenstain Bears, Boxcar Children, Roald Dahl, Mark Twain award nominees, oh so many Baby Sitters Club and Sweet Valley Twins, and gentle Christian romance novels by Jeanette Oke and Lori Wick.

Then during the Summer of 2001, I purchased the Books to Check Out journal at Barnes & Noble, which they still have for sale, and began logging the books I read.

That summer, between my Sophomore and Junior years of college, I worked in an ice cream shop in my hometown, contracted a severe strain of mononucleosis, quit said job, and recovered physically, emotionally, and spiritually from having made some very poor choices the previous school year. Looking back, I now see how this journal might have begun as bibliotherapy, but quickly turned into a lifestyle of logging the books and authors I read throughout my young adult years and beyond.

It’s a simple method. I just wrote down the name of the book and the author, noted the season and the year, and, lately, designated if it was an audio book. In another section I recorded favorite quotes and passages that stood out to me.

But at the beginning of September, I filled in the final rows – The Long Way Home by Louise Penny and Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery.

This is my new book journal that I bought from Amazon.


It has a lot more note-taking features, which we’ll see if I actually use, and due to these enhancements, there are fewer actual pages to record the books I’ll read. Therefore, I’ll probably fill up these pages within the year, but it’s a new approach and I’m happy to try something different.

And yet, before I move forward, it’s been fun to take a step back and examine memorable highlights from the book journal I’ve used for the past 17 years.


I discovered authors Adriana Trigiani, Billie Letts (I would later work with one of her sons 9 years after reading Where the Heart Is) and Jan Karon, re-read several Little House books, and bought a hardback copy of a then little known book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and distinctly remember reading it under a tree on the lawn outside my dorm room.

Total books read = 22


I bravely read about Big Brother in 1984 and revisited several books in the Narnia series, which has become an ongoing tradition.

Total books read = 20


I student-taught in the Fall, felt like The DaVinci Code jumped off the shelf at Borders and begged me to read it, graduated from college, discovered Francine Rivers, and yellow-highlighted passages in Fahrenheit 451.

Total books read = 18


The new year found me with my first job as a music teacher in St. Louis where I bought The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke at the school’s Scholastic book fair. I had just traveled to Venice the summer before and vividly pictured Prosper and Bo racing beside the canals. That Fall I transitioned to a job at our local community college, my first glimpse into a love for working in higher education, and found myself laughing out loud to the snarky humor of Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris, especially Six to Eight Black Men.

Total books read = 35


Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier was a classic on my unread shelf, which absolutely sucked me in. I read a handful of popular Nicholas Sparks books, several stage plays since I was working in a Fine Arts department, and traveled to London, accompanied by The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

Total books read = 29


The writing of Pulitzer Prize winning author Jhumpa Lahiri was forever etched into my heart, I was left very disappointed after reading/listening to all of the Lemony Snicket series, I used my public library’s reserve system to request numerous Dee Henderson titles, read my first Jodi Picoult, was bowled over by The Time Traveler’s Wife, and was given a book by Neil Clark Warren that firmly established my “must haves” and “can’t stands” in a future spouse.

Total books read = 52



Like a lot of other women, I loved Eat, Pray, Love, enjoyed the friendships of the girls in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, found the bleak surroundings of The Road mesmerizing, and said goodbye not only to beloved friends on the page in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows but also dear friends in real life as I moved away from my hometown to begin graduate school.

Total books read = 34



I began graduate school with an emphasis in vocal music performance, but in 2008 I officially declared myself as a student in the Library Science program. The public library became my home-away-from-home and I gained my first experience as a librarian working as an aide in an elementary school library. Here I discovered loads of wonderful middle-grade novels and The Magic Treehouse series, in particular. Thanks to friends in my MLS program, we all read Twilight at the height of its popularity, even went to the book release party for Breaking Dawn, and around the time of my maternal grandmother’s death, the writings of Karen Kingsbury provided great comfort.

Total books read = 52


The novel American Wife was one of the most sweeping stories I’ve still ever read, I stayed up wayyyy past my bedtime to finish Dead Until Dark at the height of the Sookie Stackhouse craze, wanted to go to culinary school in Paris thanks to The Sharper Your  Knife, The Less You Cry, and was enamored with the process of being a couture shoe maker in New York after having read Very Valentine.

Total books read = 53


During my last year of Library School I took a Reader’s Advisory class that exposed me to many wonderful books, including the epistolary classic Dracula, I caught Hunger Games fever, flew to Oklahoma to interview for my (now) job with Little Bee in my carry-on, was hired for my job as an academic librarian and moved to Oklahoma after graduating. Here I discovered the Sequoyah Awards list based on votes by Oklahoma librarians and children.

Total books read = 71


I began the year immersed in Sweden thanks to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the little girl in me who loved (still does) the country group Alabama was thrilled to read lead singer Randy Owen’s memoir Born Country, I re-read/listened to the entire Harry Potter series before the 8th movie released, couldn’t pry myself off the couch to stop reading The Help, loved learning about contemporary application of agrarian themes in the Bible through Scouting the Divine by Margaret Feinberg and finally read the Oklahoma children’s tear-jerker classic Where the Red Fern Grows.

Total books read = 59


The Optometrist asked me to marry him so The Shoemaker’s Wife took on a whole new depth as a woman in love, we married, and I have such fond memories reading Gold by Chris Cleave and Home by Julie Andrews in our  upstairs bedroom suite and on the back porch that overlooked a little grove of pine trees outside of our townhouse duplex.

Total books read = 34


This was the year I overcame my luddite fears and The Optometrist convinced me I needed a Kindle Paperwhite; one of the best decisions I’ve ever made as a reader. Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson from the public library’s Overdrive collection was my first e-book, followed by many free digital ARCs via NetGalley and Edelweiss. The modern day classic The Red Tent, amazing middle-grade book Wonder, laugh-out-loud funny A Little Salty to Cut the Sweetand the Lily Bard/Shakespeare murder mysteries by Charlaine Harris rounded out my year.

Total books read = 46


As is often the case, I checked out a book through the library I originally saw in a bookstore, this time being the Songbird series by country singer Sara Evans, I got around to reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane – a surprise end-of-the-2013-fall-semester gift from The Optometrist, we read our first book together aloud, Wicked, after seeing the musical on tour, and I was deeply impressed with the YA novel The Impossible Knife of Memory.

Total books read = 45


2015 was perhaps my best reading year ever with so many newfound favorites I now frequently recommend to others: 11/22/63, The Year of No Sugar, Orange is the New Black, Station Eleven, Grace for the Good Girl, the Wayward Pines trilogy, Kitchens of the Great Midwest, and The Coincidence of Coconut Cake.

Total books read = 40


I finally joined the Jojo Moyes bandwagon, read both Ready Player One and Dark Matter twice (once on my own, once aloud to The Optometrist), participated in reading selections from the Modern Mrs. Darcy summer reading guide for the first time, felt my soul breathe as I read Shauna Niequist’s Cold Tangerines, wanted to bake apple pies from The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living, and listened to my first Audible streaming book, Alice in Wonderland.

Total books read = 56


Not since my Mitford days have I enjoyed a series as much as the Chief Inspector Gamache books. The Optometrist patiently bore witness to me starting The Lord of the Rings, I discovered I love southern fiction with The Almost Sisters being a prime example, firmly believe the audio performance of Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan is one worth shouting from the rooftops, finally began my journey with Anne Shirley, and made a conscious effort to read outside my comfort zone.

Total books read = 72


So far, this year Ruth Reichl has proven to be a deliciously safe harbor, I cried buckets of tears during the final pages of Two Across, finished The Lord of the Rings and a re-read of Narnia, and have consumed loads of audiobooks thanks to Overdrive and Hoopla, including Tom Hanks’ Uncommon Type.

Total books read = 71

Total number of books read in this journal = 809


How do you keep track of your reading? Do you have any words of wisdom to share with me as I begin a new book journal? If so, please comment below!


Books: December Edition

Several sick days during finals week (when the library was busy with students, but slower for me not having to provide any instruction) afforded me lots of glorious time to stay at home to rest, drink tea, and read, read, read! And then, with the semester ending and visiting family over Christmas, I had even more time to read! And somehow, I forgot to post this before 2017 rolled around…so here is my December reading recap!


Good Behavior by Blake Crouch
Oh how I love anything by Blake Crouch! The Pines trilogy was so engrossing and Dark Matter was my favorite book read in 2016 (twice). Now, after finishing Good Behavior, I realize why I enjoy Crouch’s books so much: he writes descriptively and draws the reader in, which helps vividly envision scenarios and characters’ mannerisms, allowing the stories to mentally come to life and remain with you long after the last page is turned.

Comprised of three novellas stories, “The Pain of Others,” “Sunset Key,” and “Grab,” we meet Letty Dobesh, a seasoned criminal who is smart but her past choices and addictions haunt her life post-prison and influence the decisions she currently faces. The stories each stand alone, so there really isn’t a cohesive flow between the three. Yet, after each short story/novella, Crouch provides additional commentary about the story, its creation, and/or how it was adapted for TV; a neat, insider’s glance behind the scenes, allowing the reader to understand this slightly disjointed structure.

While I haven’t seen the TNT series, I’m curious about it simply because Michelle Dockery, Lady Mary from Downton Abbey, plays Letty. Talk about an actress not wanting to be typecast and playing a diverse range of characters!

My thanks to NetGalley for the digital ARC!


Greenglass House by Kate Milford

I saw this listed as a Kindle daily deal in early December, and as I always do, first looked to see if my library had this in the youth collection, which we did (which means I probably ordered it…)! Free beats a Kindle deal any day!

This is an inviting story, perfect for cold, snowy weather, drinking hot chocolate nestled near the Christmas tree, and escaping into a world where two children are solving ongoing thefts and mysteries in a unique, snow-bound inn. Although this is a children’s book, the reading level is advanced (upper elementary for sure) and the plot requires some attention to remember different characters, various names, and details about the mysteries that unfold.


What Light by Jay Asher

I received a three-chapter preview of this Young Adult novel from NetGalley, and it propelled me to request it from our public library. Jay Asher is best known for his book Th1rteen R3asons Why, which has become a well known, go-to YA story about the tragic impact of bullying.

In comparison, this Christmas story is much more positive and sweet. Sierra’s family owns a Christmas tree farm and each year they travel from Oregon to California to sell their trees, so she has two lives and two sets of friends divided around the holidays. This year, however, she meets a cute boy whose past is shrouded in speculation and rumor, and she must decide whether to accept him as he is, or be fearful of his past. This YA novel includes positive messages of acceptance, fresh starts, and openness towards the future.


Submerged by Dani Pettrey

While I’m pretty familiar with Inspirational Fiction authors, Dani Pettrey had never been on my radar until seeing one of her books as a Kindle daily deal. Again, I opted for checking my public library first to see if any of her books (especially starting with Book 1 of a series) were available. Thankfully, several were, including Submerged, the first in her Alaskan Courage series.

Although I’ve never been to Alaska, I was easily whisked away to the small, fictitious, coastal town of Yancey where Cole McKenna and his adventurous siblings work together with a friend from years past to uncover the motives surrounding a series of interconnected murders. This Christian fiction story includes themes of forgiveness, letting go of the past, the bonds of family, and an assurance in God’s faithfulness.

by Dani Pettrey

After devouring Submerged I grabbed Shattered, the second book in the Alaskan Courage series, at my public library and enjoyed it equally as much as I did the first! The McKenna siblings return once more, with sister Piper and family friend Landon being featured as the main characters in this installment, as they collectively work to prove the true identity of someone who has killed their brother’s friend.  Themes in Shattered include dependence on God, being open to love, truth prevailing, and loyalty among family members.

I’ve also realized my favorite books are written with a strong sense of place, which allows me to fully immerse myself in the writer’s world, and this series definitely whisks me away to an inviting, fictitious place!


A Baxter Family Christmas by Karen Kingsbury

I began reading stories surrounding the Baxter family in 2008 and have read (this is the 24th) over the years – wow!  This is definitely the longest series I’ve read and endeavored to keep up with, but the characters leave imprints on your heart and it’s always cozy to return to beloved friends found between the pages.

However, Kingsbury shares a brief backstory about all the characters in the preface, so you can be completely new to the Baxter family and still enjoy this sweet story of love, honesty, forgiveness, family relationships, and the birth of Jesus at Christmastime.

My thanks to Edelweiss for the digital ARC!


2016 Favorites & 2017 Projections

Favorite Reading:

Click on the links below for a more detailed review from when I read these throughout the past year.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson

Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Total books read: 56

Favorite Knitting:


Title & Pattern: French Cancan
Recipient: me!
Yarn: Araucania Huasco DK: Grass
Needles: US 7

Green complements our University’s main color and the cabled border is a show-stopper!

Title & Pattern: Little Coffee Bean Cardigan
Recipeint: Elias
Size: 6 month
Yarns: Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash: White, Malabrigo Yarn Rios: Glitter
Needles: US 7 & US 8

Such a pleasing and quick knit, which was so appreciated by my friend, the mother of the baby!

Total knits: 46 items

Hats: 12     Baby booties: 9 pair     Socks: 4      Dish cloths: 3     Various household items: 3 Adult afghans: 2     Mittens: 2      Fingerless mittens: 2     Coffee Cozies: 2     Cowls: 1         Shawls: 2     Baby sweaters: 1       Baby blankets: 1     Princess Crown: 1     Other toys: 1

2017 Ponderances:

  • When recently reading this Modern Mrs. Darcy blog post, I began pondering what it would look like for me to think on purpose this coming year. Rather than have my mind flit from topic to topic, a more diligent approach to my conscious thoughts will allow me to think more deeply, practice more logical reasoning, and perhaps see different angles to a given situation.
  • Practicing the art of hygge –  a Danish term defined as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” Pronounced “hoo-guh,” the word is said to have no direct translation in English, though “cozy” comes close. From The New Yorker.
  • Finally knit a sweater! If I can knit a baby sweater, I know my skills allow me to be capable of knitting an adult size sweater. I’m pondering several patterns on Ravelry, so the goal is finding the right one and pairing it with the right yarn…
  • All the while remembering less is more. When I was in grad school and made peanuts for a salary, I was completely content to not buy new clothing, books, yarn, or other creature comforts very often at all. Somehow over the past few years this mindset has shifted, especially when I have seen so many beautiful yarns, striking patterns, or engaging descriptions of books, it makes me feel like I need to buy/read/make the same thing. I want to remember I can still buy/read/make these things, but more in moderation (quality vs. quantity) and to think on purpose if I will really enjoy it in the long run, and if not – to vicariously enjoy other people’s photos, descriptions, and creations.
  • Possibly re-read the Bible (If so, this will be my 4th re-read). I found the process of reading through the Bible this year (ESV) was greatly assisted by the narration feature on my Bible app, which would be again be used if I endeavor to make this spiritual journey again.

“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 3:13b-14 (ESV)


Books: August Edition


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne

What a treat to return to the world of Harry Potter! Harry Potter and the Cursed Child picks up where The Deathly Hallows (book 7) left off with exciting themes of past regret influencing the present. The reader is also introduced to some new, memorable characters who synchronously fit in with those found in the original canon.

Normally, my imagination creates a vivid world, characters, and scenery for a story, but reading this was a bit trickier this time. I harkened back to my fond mental images from the original books, famous depictions from the movies, plus incorporated the stage directions as I imagined how this would be acted out live in a theatre. Yet after reading a couple of scenes, I began to slip into the flow of the play, everything merged in my brain, and the story swept me away.


Trashed by Derf Backderf

I heard about this book through a librarian newsletter/e-mail and thought it sounded fascinating: a graphic novel about garbage. It’s semi-autobiographical, based on Backderf’s previous experience as a garbage man, and sheds light on a subject many people don’t want to think about. Yet, my takeaway has been to be more mindful of what I throw into the trashcan and be more diligent about my recycling efforts. Every little bit matters!


Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

I raved about this book when I read it in May from a digital ARC , and was thrilled to choose it for my August Book of the Month pick in hardback! As soon as it arrived I asked The Optometrist, “Would you like for me to read this aloud to you?” With his fascination of and ease in understanding sci-fi themes, I had a feeling he would enjoy the plot, pacing, and scientific concepts, and I was anxious to re-read it.

As I shared before, this novel addresses quantum physics, is filled with suspense and hope, and the overarching theme of the book centers around fighting for love and being at peace with the decisions we make. The second go around was just as enjoyable, if not more so since I was able to share and discuss it with my love, and remains my favorite book read in 2016 (at least so far).


Fire in Beulah by Rilla Askew

Recently our university chose this as our inaugural Freshman Common Read, and since I’m teaching a small group of freshmen, it’s imperative I read the book they are required to read. Fire in Beulah is a historically fictitious account of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, of which I knew nothing previously.

Askew doesn’t hold back as she interweaves stories of Oklahomans (white, black, and Indian) and their prejudices, in a gritty, raw, gut-wrenching, and violent way. (Overall, “gloom, despair, and agony on me.”) It’s been years since I’ve read anything this emotionally difficult, the last being Push by Sapphire.

The author is somewhat of a local, whom I’ve had the privilege of meeting on a few occasions, and had previously read another of her novels, Kind of Kin, which addresses the current state of immigration in the United States. I found it impactful, but interlaced with humor. In comparison, and in my opinion, Fire in Beulah is definitely not for the faint of heart. Yet it has made me more curious to find out more historical facts about this tragic conflict in our state’s and nation’s history. Plus it’s good to remember that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

If you’re interested in learning more, this segment from 60 Minutes provides interviews and background information about”Tulsa burning.”

(And looking ahead to September, I’ve recently begun Giddy Up, Eunice by Sophie Hudson and One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood.)